What does Google know about you?

Big Brother Google logoThe search giant has clearly established itself as the predominant search engine, and with its ever-increasing list of web properties, the amount of data that Google is able to collect about individuals is increasing exponentially; not only are more users using more Google properties, Google is getting better at collecting more information from a wider range of sources. To me, this could potentially be a scary situation.

I frequently hound my colleagues about being logged in to their Gmail account while using the search engine, and yesterday I was preaching to the office about how much Google knows about everyone and that I purposely make an effort to use a variety of different providers for different online services like search. And no, I wasn’t simply acting as an evangelist for the turbulent Sunnyvale-based company I enjoy so much.

So, what does Google know about you? Well, it turns out they know a heck of a lot! Consider some of the properties: Google search/personalized (custom?) search, the Google toolbar, YouTube, Orkut, Blogger, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Desktop, Google Earth – and that’s not all of them! That doesn’t include Analytics, AdWords, AdSense, or search verticals like image, maps, books, and news. I’m quite certain that the average individual is using at least a handful of the services regularly, and the information that is collected from each of these properties is extensive!

Microsoft, the software giant that it is, may be referred to as the Dark Side, but knowing how that tale ends and seeing Microsoft as it is today makes the soon-to-be-Gates-less company seem somewhat less menacing. And while I don’t find myself strapped to a chair next to a cage full of rats betraying my beloved Julia, I can’t help but feel as though Google is slowly trying to brainwash me into believing that two and two makes five – or at least make me believe that they are a squeaky clean alternative to the Dark Side that I should trust.

For an in-depth look at what information Google collects from its various properties, check out Danny Dover‘s article on SEOmoz that looks at Google’s user data collection.